The first million is always the hardest

Twenty-five years ago today, Hapag-Lloyd AG’s cargo volume transported within a single year exceeded 1 million TEU for the first time ever.

There was nothing about this container that indicated it was a special one. On 22 December 1996, a container gantry crane in the Port of Hong Kong hoisted it into the air and deposited it with the usual crash on Hapag-Lloyd AG’s “Hoechst Express” – as just one of many that would set sail on the 4,400 TEU ship. The destination: Europe. However, when the ship and the container safely arrived in the Port of Hamburg a few weeks later, they were welcomed with a celebration.

With this box, the cargo volume transported by Hapag-Lloyd within a single year broke the magical barrier of 1 million TEU for the first time. What made it possible was a volume growth of 4.5%, which was in line with the average market development.

Since the record-breaking container was filled with goods bound for Karstadt AG, high-ranking representatives of the German department store chain were invited to jointly celebrate its many years of good cooperation with Hapag-Lloyd.

This “first millionth” container represented a milestone for Hapag-Lloyd in 1996 – but it also symbolised the rapid growth of global container transports over the decades. Ten years earlier, in 1986, Hapag-Lloyd had carried a total of 459,000 TEU – or less than half as many containers. And thanks in part to double-digit growth rates around the turn of the millennium, the mark of 2 million TEU in a single year was already surpassed by 2003.

In subsequent years, China’s admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) gave a big and special boost to international trade and shipping. Thanks to this across-the-board market growth and the four major mergers and acquisitions that Hapag-Lloyd was involved in over the past two decades, our annual transport volume is now in the region of a very impressive 12 million TEU. This means that we have a global market share of 10%, which we would like to further consolidate in the future.

In addition, there is something to celebrate again this year as Hapag-Lloyd turns 175 years. There will be an anniversary week in June to celebrate this birthday in our 418 offices around the world.

The millionth container transported by Hapag-Lloyd in 1996 at the terminal in Hamburg.

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